The Lookout
  • Report: Mental health of U.S. soldiers in a freefall

    New York Magazine reporter Jennifer Senior has a wrenching report on the growing mental-health crisis among American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    With military suicide rates rising to unprecedented heights—to the point where more soldiers are now dying by their own hand than in combat—Senior finds that many soldiers end up combating their own mental afflictions in isolation. Often, she notes, they end up falling out of social networks of support, dependent on a bevy of prescription anti-depressants and sleep aides to make it through each day.

    A spokesman at Fort Drum, home to the 10th Mountain Division here in New York State, tells me by e-mail that one-quarter of its 20,000 soldiers have "received some type of behavioral health evaluation and/or treatment during the past year." Defense Department spending on Ambien, a popular sleep aid, and Seroquel, an antipsychotic, has doubled since 2007, according to the Army Times, while spending on Topamax, an anti-convulsant medication often used for migraines, quadrupled; amphetamine prescriptions have doubled, too, according to the Army's own data. Meanwhile, a study by the Rand Corporation has found that 20 percent of the soldiers who've deployed in this war report symptoms of post-traumatic stress and major depression. The number climbs to almost 30 percent if the soldiers have deployed more than twice.

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  • AP04060406750A comprehensive analysis of 33 studies finds that teaching kids social and emotional skills leads to an average 11 percentile-point gain in their academic performance over six months compared to students who didn't receive the same instruction.

    That's a big jump, equivalent to a student at the middle of a class's performance curve moving into the top 40 percent of his or her peers, Sarah Sparks at EdWeek notes. The study's authors, led by Joseph Durlak, suggest the dramatic gain could be rooted in the physiology of the brain; social-skill instruction "may affect central executive cognitive functions," he notes—and improvement there helps kids to gain greater control over their impulses and actions.

    The classes emphasize self control, responsible decision-making, and how to form and keep positive relationships with friends and authority figures. One lesson plan from the "Caring School Community" program asks kids to think about "some things you can do if you're not included in a game"—or if you see someone else on the playground who is left out. Many of the programs have an anti-bullying focus.

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  • A natural gas well grows in a national forest

    gas drilling in forestWhat happens when an industry increasingly prone to safety mishaps and public controversy gets drilling rights in a national forest?

    The nonprofit investigative group Pro Publica gives a bracing answer, by digging into a U.S. Forest Service report on a natural gas drilling project in West Virginia's 4,700-acre Fernow Experimental Forest. In summarizing the Forest Service's findings, Pro Publica points up an impressive litany of environmental damage: The drilling killed off roughly 1,000 trees, while the natural-gas industry's controversial slate-fracturing gas-discovery process known as "fracking" released toxic chemicals into the ground and onto the surrounding land that could well render the immediate area virtually uninhabitable for native wildlife.

    Reports Pro Publica:

    According to the report, a well blowout . . . accidentally sprayed that fracking fluid onto surrounding land and trees, browning leaves and killing ground cover. After drilling was complete, Berry Energy, which owns the well, also sprayed some 80,000 gallons of wastewater into the forest. The briney liquid shocked about 150 trees into shedding their leaves. A year later, half of those trees still had no foliage. This disposal method, called land application, is legal in West Virginia with conventional wells, Schuler said, but is not allowed for wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale.

    Schuler said the scientists were surprised that the trees lost their leaves. Drillers normally spray the waste over a larger area but the scientists asked Berry to contain the application, which meant spreading the salts and chemicals on a smaller piece of land. The soil in that area was left with high levels of chloride, calcium and sodium. Animals were attracted to the area, likely because of the high salt content of the soil.

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Pagination

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  • 10 Things to Know for Today
    10 Things to Know for Today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

  • Obama wants limits on US company mergers abroad
    Obama wants limits on US company mergers abroad

    President Barack Obama is tapping into growing misgivings about tax-driven overseas mergers by U.S. corporations, issuing a new call to end the practice quickly and questioning the patriotism and citizenship ...

  • Indian Billionaire Might Sell the Plaza Hotel To Pay His Bail
    Indian Billionaire Might Sell the Plaza Hotel To Pay His Bail

    Very, very wealthy businessman Subrata Roy Sahara has been sitting in the infamous Tihar Jail in Delhi since March. Sahara leads the Sahara Group, and is involved in media, real estate, hospitality and financial services businesses. He landed in prison after refusing to attend a number of court hearings in regards to a battle with SEBI, which is India's market regulator. India's Supreme Court has allowed him to sell some of his many assets to post his massive bail, so he will sell three of his luxury hotels.

  • Russia starts reinforcing naval fleet in Crimea
    Russia starts reinforcing naval fleet in Crimea

    Russia announced Wednesday that it had begun expanding and modernising its Black Sea fleet based in Crimea with new ships and submarines, just months after annexing the peninsula from Ukraine. "Today we have started forming a powerful Black Sea fleet with an absolutely different level of air service, coastal missile and artillery troops and marines," said Alexander Vitko, the Black Sea fleet commander, in a message to servicemen. Russia's Black Sea fleet had a base at the historic port city of Sevastopol in Crimea under an agreement with Ukraine before Russia annexed the peninsula in March.

  • Young MH17 victim has eerie premonition of crash
    Young MH17 victim has eerie premonition of crash

    In a bedroom in a townhouse near Amsterdam, Miguel Panduwinata reached out for his mother. "Mama, may I hug you?"

  • Hamas tactics exact high toll in Israeli ground thrust
    Hamas tactics exact high toll in Israeli ground thrust

    By Noah Browning GAZA (Reuters) - Using tunnels, mines, booby traps and snipers, Hamas fighters have inflicted record casualties on Israeli troops waging an offensive in the Gaza Strip, applying years of training in urban warfare with a new tactical acumen and suicidal resolve. The Israelis say weapons and know-how supplied by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah make Hamas a more formidable foe. Four days after Israel launched a withering ground assault on the Palestinian Islamist militants in their stronghold of Shejaia following intensive air strikes, the army still does not have complete control of the area. Exploiting a vast network of secret tunnels to snipe at enemy troops and blast their vehicles even inside Israel, Hamas has killed 32 Israeli soldiers -- almost three times as many as in the last major ground clashes in a 2008-9 conflict.

  • Raleigh Leads The Best Places For Business And Careers 2014
    Raleigh Leads The Best Places For Business And Careers 2014

    Raleigh returns to the No. 1 spot in Forbes' annual look at the metros with the best business climates. North Carolina's capital is the only East Coast locale to make the top 10.

  • British reporter for Russian TV 'captured' by Ukraine: ministry

    A British journalist reporting for a Russian television channel from conflict-torn eastern Ukraine went missing on Wednesday, with Moscow alleging he and another journalist were captured by Kiev's troops. Graham Phillips, a British national who works as a stringer for state-owned channel RT (formerly Russia Today), went to cover intense fighting around Donetsk airport Tuesday, but RT has had no contact with him since the early hours of Wednesday, it said. "According to available information, they have been captured by Ukrainian forces," the ministry statement said, calling it a "targeted provocation of Ukrainian authorities towards independent international journalists." Also on Wednesday, the US ambassador to Ukraine wrote on Twitter that a Ukrainian journalist had been abducted by pro-Russian rebels.

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